What is freehand good for?
In this technology driven society, we get used to hearing that things are, or are soon-to-be obsolete. It’s almost never the case of course. We still have theatre, radio, books etc. Remember Egon in Ghostbusters saying, “print is dead”?
Another example – I remember thinking, why would I ever write something freehand again, when electronic typing is so convenient? But it certainty has its uses.
Back when I were a gnipper
I remember I used to like writing everything freehand on a first draft. The moment I changed my mind was when I had to copy up an overdue essay for school. Time was precious, and typing the whole thing up was a real chore.
I vowed never to do it again.
Since then writing electronically has become more and more useful. All my drafts are done on a word processor (I actually use Writeroom so even the distracting clutter of word processor writing is gone); my blog posts are written on my iPod Touch, and some of my notes are too.
Yes the convenience of writing something and being able to change it and move bits around is invaluable, and now it can go everywhere with you. I can’t imagine writing out a full draft and then having to copy it all out again. I find it hard enough to get things done as it is!
But you’ll notice I said (wrote, whatever), “some notes” earlier and not “all notes”. Yes, there are still some things that just don’t feel natural to type.
The freehand list
- Editing. This is a numbered list because editing is the number one king of freehand uses. I have edited straight into my electronic draft, and I can do it. But I just love scribbling all over a piece of work, crossing great chunks out of it, writing notes in the margins. It’s just so satisfying, and it goes quicker too. Sure I have to copy up those changes again and that’s a drag, but it’s worth it.
Notes as you type. Some people use freehand for all their notes. For me it depends on the writing I’m doing. If I’m making notes to get me out of a hole, I like to write in full paragraphs, and I’m aware that I might use some of it later. That’s for the word processor.
But I always have a notepad next to me when I write in case I need it. It might be a note on an idea I’ve had for later in the story; something I need to research; an idea for another story altogether. I don’t want to change what’s on my screen though. I don’t want to start a new document or swap out to another one. It feels distracting. Jotting down a freehand note with one hand somehow doesn’t.
Journalling.This is a slightly odd one, because it’s hard to put my finger on why I do this and don’t type them. I have a journal that is strictly for new story ideas. One idea per tiny page. I love journals, but I actually had to have a long think about what I would use one for!
Writing these ideas down freehand in the journal makes them feel special, and the space restriction is useful too (there is literally no space restriction in electronic work of course). I’m also worried about losing them amongst a virtual pile of folders. Most of all though, our ideas are personal, and freehand is personal. It feels good to keep these initial flashes in as raw a form as possible.
- Planning and mindmapping. I actually don’t use freehand for this, but it gets an honourable mention because I know many people do. For mindmapping I use Freemind, because I like to put useful links and images in my maps. Bt there’s no denying the freedom of scrawling on a blank page, and the least resistance we can put between our brain and the outside the better. It can also be useful to shuffle things around quickly and easily to see how they look, and there’s no better toolset than a pen and some post-its for that.
So there you go. Freehand is not dead, and never will be, so I’ll hear none of this freehand goo-goo or ga-ga. What I will hear more of however is your own uses for freehand, so hit the comments with your ideas!